Education Oversight Committee wants to track SC’s five-year graduation rates

Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 8:16 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 11, 2022 at 8:46 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - One of the key markers of school accountability across the country is the percentage of students who graduate high school in four years.

But South Carolina may soon track schools’ five-year graduation rates as well.

The state Education Oversight Committee voted Monday to begin tracking this data during the 2023-2024 school year, and it would be incorporated as an accountability measure into annual School Report Cards starting the following year.

“The report cards are to shine a light on how school are doing and to inform parents, policymakers, and just the general public about how schools are doing with the students that they serve,” EOC Deputy Director Dana Yow said.

Yow said adding this rate as a school accountability measure should incentivize and encourage schools to still work with students to get them across the finish line and graduate if they were not able to do so in four years.

In recent years, that has been around one in five students in South Carolina, where the on-time graduation rate has risen from 81% in 2018 to 83.3% in 2021.

“We feel like the system should value students that may take a little bit longer for them to go across that stage and graduate from high school for various different circumstances, it may take students five years instead of the traditional four years to do that,” Yow said.

The nonpartisan Learning Policy Institute reports about 40 states already track graduation rates extended past four years in their school accountability and improvement metrics, but South Carolina is not among them.

According to the organization, about one in five students nationwide do not graduate high school in four years, close to South Carolina’s rate, with students in high-need communities at higher risk of missing that mark.

Yow said the EOC would like to expand this measure from a graduation rate to a “student success rate,” which would also incorporate students who receive their GED within five years of beginning their freshman year of high school, but they would need to see if that is allowable under federal school guidelines.

“That really is the purpose of accountability, is to incentivize schools to really focus on behaviors that help students earlier, so that’s really part of the purpose is that if you weave that into an accountability system, hopefully schools will help those students that it takes them an extra year,” Yow said.

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